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If there was one word to use to describe the 80s, the word would be excess. From shoulder pads to perms, from mullets to gender benders. The colours were bold, the jeans were ripped and spandex was tight. Politics and fashion merged with the dawn of the slogan tee, one of the biggest current trends. Despite the ‘over the top’ fashion, we owe a lot to 80s style influences in today’s trends. 

Fashion trends through the decade

Post-Punk Peacocks

From the dying embers of the punk movement came a music and fashion movement that would dominate much of the early 80s charts and fashion. The Blitz Kids who later became known as the New Romantics were born from the London club scene, Bored with the anti-fashion of punk and taking inspiration from David Bowie and Roxy Music, the look was most definitely androgynous and very glamorous. Exquisite make-up and elaborate costumes were worn by both sexes, inspired by looks from historical periods, pirates, kilts, frilled shirts and boots – looks more akin to the dressing-up box than the catwalk. Out of this cult movement came many pop bands and artists such as Adam and the Ants, Spandau Ballet, Boy George, Visage (Steve Strange), Japan and Duran Duran – introducing a new electronic sound to the UK charts.

Key Looks: Frilled and ruffled shirts, taffeta dresses, kilts, pirate boots and hats, 1940s-style suits.

Soap Style and a Princess

During the 80s, Britain was introduced to a new type of soap opera from the U.S. This wasn’t the kitchen-sink style dramas we were used to but glamour with a capital G. Rich families feuded and brooded, ex-wife’s plotted and we were hooked. Dallas and Dynasty were the two that dominated prime time viewing and the fashion was amazing. Shoulder pads, power suits, boxy jumpsuits and elegant gowns – all in bold colours or beautiful shimmering fabrics. Victoria Principle and Linda Gray from Dallas and Joan Collins and Linda Evans from Dynasty, were the epitome of American glamour, preened to perfection with an outfit change every scene in fashion as dramatic as the plot lines. But glamour wasn't just about Americans soap queens, we had our own princess of fashion. In 1981, Diana Spencer married Prince Charles, and the UK and the world fell in love. Princess Diana was an instant fashion hit and every outfit was front page news, from the meringue-style wedding dress by The Emmanuels to the Bruce Oldfield gowns.

Key Looks: Shoulder pads, statement jackets, structured dresses, bold colours, power suits.

Desperately Seeking Style

Madonna burst onto the music and fashion scene in 1983 after an appearance on The Tube, it was a life-changing moment for Madonna and for many teenage girls watching. Madonna became the most copied fashion icon of the era. From her street-style lace gloves, cropped tops and vests to her boy toy belt, basque and beauty spot. However, Madonna wasn’t the only trendsetter, Jane Fonda and Olivia Newton-John popularised the ‘workout look’, making sportswear chic. Bananarama’s ra-ra skirts, peddle pushers and hair bows. Michael Jackson with his shoulder padded leather jackets and white socks. New punks in leather and fishnet, rock bands in spandex. Frankie Say t-shirts, dayglo, bumbags and huge earrings, as well as American letterman jackets and stonewashed denim jeans. Anything would go as long as you wore it with conviction. Over the top and totally outrageous.

Key Looks:Cropped tops, peddle pushers, stonewash denim, slogan t-shirts, ra-ra skirts, leather jackets.

Style Icons

Madonna, Boy George, Steve Strange, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Paula Yates, Hazel O’Connor, Cyndi Lauper, Olivia Newton-John, Jane Fonda, Michael Jackson, The Brat Pack (Demi Moore, Molly Ringwald, Rod Lowe), Cher, Whitney Houston, Brooke Shields, Michael Jackson, Joan Collins, Annie Lennox, Bananarama, Tina Turner, Princess Diana.


Vivienne Westwood, Katharine Hamnett, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Christian Lacroix, Azzedine Alaia, Thierry Mugler, Giorgio Armani, Pam Hogg, Bruce Oldfield, The Emmanuelles.

2018: 80s-inspired Trends

Bold colours, double-breasted jackets, cropped tops, oversized tops, sports chic, shoulder pads, structured jackets and dresses, slogan t-shirts, double denim, polka dots.

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